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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Morgan, David Archibald (1920–1995)

by Michael B. Tyquin

This article was published online in 2020

David Archibald Stevenson Morgan (1920–1995), air force medical officer, was born on 29 April 1920 at Yorketown, South Australia, third of four children of South Australian-born Robert John Willshire Morgan, head teacher, and his English-born wife Muriel Dorothy Brakespear, née Stevenson, a former music student. Educated at Unley High School, David studied medicine at the University of Adelaide (MBBS, 1943), and developed life-long interests in personal fitness, aviation, and music. Following two years working in local hospitals, he was appointed on 19 March 1945 as a flight lieutenant in the Medical Branch of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Tallish and of medium build, during his service career he was often known as 'Das' Morgan.

Following a succession of short postings in Adelaide and Darwin, Morgan served in Japan (1946–47) with the RAAF Component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. He was back in Australia for seven months (1947–48), before returning to Japan, where he was the senior medical officer of No. 77 Squadron (1948–50) and, while posted to No. 391 Base Squadron (1950–54), of No. 91 (Composite) Wing. As a temporary (1947) and substantive (1951) squadron leader and temporary wing commander (1952), he organised the medical air evacuation of twelve thousand sick or wounded British Commonwealth personnel taking part in the Korean War; his Casualty Air Evacuation Team transported them to Japan, and thence to Australia or Singapore. For his efficiency and tireless efforts in this role, he was appointed OBE (1953). On 27 May 1950, at St Ignatius Loyola Church, Tokyo, he married Anne Francoise de la Chevalerie, daughter of the Belgian military representative in Japan.

From 1954 to 1957 Morgan commanded No. 6 RAAF Hospital, Laverton, Victoria, impressing the director-general of medical services (DGMS), Air Vice Marshal Ted Daley, with his administrative skills and planning ability. He was command medical officer (1957–59) at the headquarters of Training Command, Melbourne, before proceeding to London for exchange service with the Royal Air Force.

Between 1961 and 1969 Morgan performed medical administrative staff duties in the Department of Air, Canberra, rising to group captain (1963). Following the dissolution of his first marriage, he married Josette Denise Marie Esquedin, a French–born violinist who had performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and who became concert master of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, on 11 September 1963 in Canberra. The University of Sydney awarded him a diploma in public health in 1968. In 1969 he became commanding officer, No. 4 RAAF Hospital, Butterworth, Malaysia, an important staging post for Australian medical evacuees from the Vietnam War. On 19 April 1971 he was appointed as DGMS (director-general of air force health services from 1976), in the Department of Air, Canberra, as an acting air commodore (substantive, 1972). An acting air vice marshal from October 1972, he was promoted to the substantive rank on 19 April 1974.

During 'an era of reform' (Andrews 2001, 183) in defence administration, Morgan not only embraced change but led it. He overhauled the physical standards required for RAAF service and made the necessary amendments to the rules governing the proceedings of medical boards. Moreover, he 'pushed hard for health promotional programs designed to improve the fitness of the men and women under his care, sometimes in the face of great inertia by fellow members of the senior administration' (Canberra Times 1995, 4). One program addressed cardiovascular risk factors, including smoking, diet, and physical fitness. Another, for alcohol rehabilitation and education, was based on similar measures implemented by the military in the United States of America. As chairman of the Aviation Medical Society of Australia and New Zealand, he helped organise the Second International Meeting on Aerospace Medicine in Melbourne (October-November 1972). In 1980 he was appointed AO for his services, before his transfer to the RAAF Retired List on 22 April.

Morgan maintained his association with the RAAF as a civilian medical officer at the Fairbairn air base, where visitors were often bemused by a large desk plate displaying his impressive sequence of post-nominals, including JP. On 30 May 1995 he died in Canberra, survived by his wife and his son and daughter. He was buried after a service at the ANZAC Memorial Chapel of St Paul, Duntroon.

Research edited by Stephen Wilks

Select Bibliography

  • Advertiser (Adelaide). ‘Fashionable Tokio Wedding for S.A. Man.’ 10 June 1950, 1
  • Andrews, Eric. The Australian Centenary History of Defence. Vol. 5, The Department of Defence. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2001
  • Canberra Times. ‘Air Vice-Marshal, Repatriation Expert.’ 19 June 1995, 4
  • Moller, Graeme, Air Vice Marshal. Personal communication
  • National Archives of Australia. A12372, R/4398/H, R/4398/P
  • Short, Bruce, Air Vice Marshal (retired). Personal communication

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Michael B. Tyquin, 'Morgan, David Archibald (1920–1995)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/morgan-david-archibald-30143/text37416, published online 2020, accessed online 31 October 2020.

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